Lifestyle

Cigar Reviews: Winter 2018

CAO Flathead V660 Carb Nicaragua               6.0” x 60               Full 95-Rated Big. Beefy. Box-Pressed. Also, the head is flat. The V660 Carb sits like a brick in my hand, and burned slower than a decision on Ezekiel’s suspension during this review. A chocolate brown Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper cloaks this beast, imparting a rich bouquet that’s sweet […]

CAO Flathead V660 Carb

Nicaragua               6.0” x 60               Full

95-Rated

Big. Beefy. Box-Pressed. Also, the head is flat. The V660 Carb sits like a brick in my hand, and burned slower than a decision on Ezekiel’s suspension during this review. A chocolate brown Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper cloaks this beast, imparting a rich bouquet that’s sweet on the finish. Underneath, Nicaraguan and Dominican long-fillers combine to add leather, earth, and an almost sugary-sweetness I can only describe as molasses. Complex from the start, this CAO grows quite full throughout.

La Palina El Diario Torpedo

Honduras               6.1” x 52               Full

92-Rated

Leathery in appearance and oily to the touch, this powerful Honduran marries Nicaraguan Criollo and Corojo tobaccos inside an impressive Honduran Rosado wrapper. Aging is evident in the flavor, as this Torpedo dishes out big, bold flavors in surprisingly refined fashion. I get cocoa and spice up front, while cedar and rich tobacco linger on the finish just before a dash of white pepper enters the fray. Eventful yet graceful, El Diario is a perfect complement to a healthy pour after a generous meal.

New World by AJ Fernandez Churchill

Nicaragua               7.0” x 52               Medium-Full

93-Rated

I’ll say it now. I love cigars with tobaccos cultivated from the volcanic soils of Ometepe. These leaves are robust and flavorful, offering a gritty earthiness you’ll notice instantly. AJ combined these tobaccos with rich, chocolatey leaves from Esteli and aromatic long-fillers from Condega, then topped them off with a dark Nicaraguan wrapper. Espresso notes mingle with spicy-sweet nuances with each cocoa-laced puff. Then there’s the luxurious aroma, which I find myself savoring each time I put this Churchill down.

Partagas Aniversario 170 Robusto

Dominican Republic               5.0” x 50               Medium

94-Rated

Complex, no doubt, the 170th anniversary of Partagas had me at the pre-light aroma. Part freshly-baked bread, part barnyard, this cigar has a lot going on even before it’s lit. Upon lighting, the promise continues to the tune of sweet cedar, cream, toast, pepper, and dark chocolate. Midway through, I pick up a nuttiness…almost like the roasted skin of a peanut. Four countries came together to make this beauty, including Cameroon for the wrapper, Connecticut, USA for the Habano binder, and a blend of long-fillers from Nicaragua and the Dominican.

Quesada Reserva Privada Toro

Dominican Republic        5.6” x 54               Mild-Medium

92-Rated

Blonde in color, Quesada Reserva employs a seamless Connecticut wrapper from Ecuador. Rich and soothing, this leaf produces a creamy core that clings to the palate. Underneath, Dominican long-leaf tobaccos meet dark, Pennsylvania Broadleaf long-fillers to create a lovely rich and elegant array of flavor. A nuttiness is present, but doesn’t overshadow subtle hints of wood, rich tobacco, and citrus. Soothing yet satisfying, Quesada Reserva was an enjoyable cigar to review to say the least.

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Second Labels

Finding Value in the Classic Wine Regions of the World For those who love wines from the great classic regions of the world – Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany and the Rhône – it has been hard to watch as these region’s top wines have escalated in price. Premier Grand Cru Classé Mouton Rothschild’s 2000 vintage was […]

Finding Value in the Classic Wine Regions of the World

For those who love wines from the great classic regions of the world – Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany and the Rhône – it has been hard to watch as these region’s top wines have escalated in price. Premier Grand Cru Classé Mouton Rothschild’s 2000 vintage was released at about $275 per bottle in 2001, and now fetches about $1,300 per bottle. The newest release, the 2016 vintage, is around $550 per bottle and won’t even be bottled for a year! Many others have taken even more dramatic price increases, especially some of the smaller right bank properties, making many of the region’s top wines out of reach for the average consumer.
Bordeaux is not the only place where rampant price increases have driven many buyers out of the market. World famous Super-Tuscan Sassicaia 2007 cost about $83 on release, the current vintages are about $200. Burgundy’s top estates may have seen the most extreme increases, fueled by world wide collector demand and tiny productions. Armand Rousseau’s highly sought after 1999 Gevrey Chambertin, 1er Cru, Clos St. Jacques, was a mere $85 per bottle on release. Current vintages top $700 per bottle if you can find it. Domaine de La Romnée Conti? Forget about it! A single bottle can set you back well over $10,000.
The affordable answer lies in buying second labels from great producers. In Bordeaux, the goal of the Châteaux is to make the very best wine they can for the “Grand Vin”, the top wine of the estate. This is done by carefully selecting the best lots and barrels and blending them to become the final wine. Wines that don’t make the cut – not always inferior but sometimes they just don’t suit the blend or style the winemaker is seeking are often put into a second label. Some have third labels, but any wine they don’t feel is up to the standards of the winery is sold off in bulk.
Second labels are produced from the same estate grapes and the same team used for the top wines. As such, they often reflect much of the same style as the top wines, but they are typically about half as much money. In addition, they are often vinified in a way that they’ll be more accessible when they are young, eliminating the need for a decade or more of cellaring before they are ready to drink. True, some second wines now cost more than the firsts did not that many years ago – but if you stay away from the Premier Grand Cru Classés and focus on 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Growths, you will find dozens of bargains.
La Croix de Ducru Beaucaillou, Echo de Lynch Bages, and Les Griffons de Pichon Baron are all great examples that sell for under $50.
In the case of Burgundy, a step down to Bourgogne Rouge or Blanc from the pricier Village, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru designations will give you plenty of Burgundian character for under $30, especially from the ripe and lush 2015 vintage. The only issue there is frost, freeze, and hail that wreaked havoc with yields, resulting in shortages even of the lower price wines. Burgundy is a little trickier than Bordeaux – the best strategy is to seek a merchant that specializes and ask advice. They are not technically second labels, but they accomplish much of the same goals: earlier drinking, classically styled wines at a fraction of the price.
In Brunello, opting for a Rosso di Montalcino will get you plenty of Brunello character at a half or less than the real deal. Whereas Brunello must age for five years before release, Rosso’s only need one. Like their Burgundian and Bordelaise counterparts, these wines are vinified to be much more accessible when young, alleviating the need for long cellaring. Look for Rosso’s from top producers such as Pertimali, Siro Pacenti and more for some of the best values in Italy.
In the Rhône, look for Côtes du Rhône Villages instead of Cháteauneuf du Pape, Crozes Hermitage or Saint Joseph instead of Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, and you will find value and quality and incredible prices. A string of great vintages has generated a wealth of superb, affordable wines both in the northern and southern Rhône – don’t miss out!

Chris Cree MW is one of only 42 American Masters of Wine in the country. He is currently Director of Wine Education and Retail Operations at The Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster NJ. He can be reached at chriscreemw@pluckywineshop.com

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Why You Should Consider Rome This Winter

Rome’s weather is a mix of Mediterranean and Temperate due to it being located between the sea and the Apennine mountains. Its location offers what Italians call January and February ‘the freshest months” where the temperature averages 55°F. It rarely gets below freezing, with little or no rainfall. The low angle sun warms the day. […]

Rome’s weather is a mix of Mediterranean and Temperate due to it being located between the sea and the Apennine mountains. Its location offers what Italians call January and February ‘the freshest months” where the temperature averages 55°F. It rarely gets below freezing, with little or no rainfall. The low angle sun warms the day.
At this writing, direct round-trip flights out of Newark NJ start at $241.00 for coach and 546.00 for business class, making it an even more tempting reason to head to Rome this winter. Even luxury apartments with butler and concierge service are at their lowest prices this time of year, not to mention there are smaller crowds wherever you go.
It is the best time to visit the Vatican Museums. You actually have time to linger at the Sistine Chapel and soak it all in. Skip the line; tickets are best ordered through the Vatican Museum’s own website. You can also reserve a multitude of guided tours by those employed by the Vatican and see areas that are normally impossible to visit during the high season. You will have plenty of elbow room at the Papal Audience where during the summer months the crowd surges to 80,000. Should the weather turn on you, the weekly Papal Audience is held in the Papal Auditorium, said to have better acoustics that the Basilica of St. Peter’s.
Rome is sweltering in the summer months and more difficult than touring in winter. Warmer than most European cities, it is comfortable for outdoor sites such as the Colosseum and Roman Forum and wandering the through the ancient district of Trastevere where the cobblestones first laid in Roman times still stand.
This year, the Colosseum was named one of the new seven wonders of the world. It will be possible to visit the two newly opened areas with restricted access. The past two years, the Colosseum underground level and third level have been open to the public. It’s near impossible to get tickets during the summer as it is strictly limited. Your chances of visiting the upper third level offering a bird’s eye view of Rome in the ‘cheap seats’ for ancient Romans and the underground chambers are all but guaranteed.
Here you will get to experience what few tourists can, retracing the footsteps of the Gladiators. This area even then was only for Gladiators and wild animals. You will walk the same path they did in 80 AD, walking directly under the stage and see a model of the trap door used to raise them to the Arena’s floor. For the first time since 1975, a limited number of tickets to climb the 3rd, 4th and 5th rings allow you an extraordinary viewpoint from the top of the Cavea, sweeping down to the Arena below and the city of Rome beyond.
The Roman Catacombs hold their temperature year round, and you can walk into the Borghese Gallery without advanced tickets. Rome’s best exhibitions are during the winter months.
Take time to see museums off the beaten path, like the National Pasta Museum or the Doria Pamphili Gallery, The Jewish Museum and the National Museum of 21st Century Art. There is an interesting museum of horse-drawn carriages perfect if you’re bringing the kids.
Winter allows you to enjoy the city at a slower pace; relax in the warmth of a family trattoria, enjoy a wine tasting at Roscioli, go ice skating under the iconic umbrella pines surrounding a temporary rink set up at Castel San ‘ Angelo. Have Panettone with a cup of hot chocolate. Stop into Coromandel for a change from the typical croissant and cappuccino breakfast and enjoy a belly-warming hot breakfast or Antica Fabbrica del Cioccolato, a restaurant converted from a chocolate factory where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinners or a little bit of chocolate. Visit the three churches where Caravaggio’s paintings are ‘in situ,’ the actual churches he painted them for. Take time as Audrey and Gregory did, to visit La Bocca Della Verita. Legend still holds that if you tell a lie while your hand is inserted in this icon’s mouth, he bites it off. After a foodie trek to the Testaccio district, visit the Protestant Cemetery for some of the most beautiful statues honoring some of the most famous and important graves anywhere in the world. Spend a morning at Eatly, an incredible food emporium of 18 restaurants and food stalls from all 20 regions of Italy.
The city seems to be cozier in winter; Romans thrive in sun and sand, and during the cooler months spend more times indoors at their favorite trattorias and bars eating simple comfort foods you won’t find on the menus in warmer months. Just strolling past them will indicate the best places to eat like a Roman and you’ll find the staff is more relaxed allowing a true Roman experience.
And while there is so much to do in this eternal city, the Frecciarossa train now allows you to be in Renaissance city of Florence or the quaint Umbrian town of Orvieto in ninety minutes, making for an enjoyable day trip.

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professionally-fit

A Professionally Fit Lifestyle

Creating a “realistically” fit lifestyle has become a challenge for many of us. Each of us battle with this target personally and some of us professionally. The demand for our time will shift throughout life and seems to be increasing. With the expanse of online entrepreneurship, it seems there are professionals actually getting the balance […]

Creating a “realistically” fit lifestyle has become a challenge for many of us. Each of us battle with this target personally and some of us professionally. The demand for our time will shift throughout life and seems to be increasing. With the expanse of online entrepreneurship, it seems there are professionals actually getting the balance accomplished when you view their posts on social media. However, it’s quite easy to portray an image of perfection while others are struggling to comprehend how even to make the time to get started.

Our lifestyles usually shift with age and lifestyle choices. We all seem to be working harder, claim to be working smarter, but the results will always speak for themselves. If you push too hard, you will burn out, risk adrenal fatigue and other negative health impacts which are often answered with a pharmaceutical Band-Aid.

Some key nutritional lifestyles have gained reputable popularity that I personally investigate and implement myself. I personally create balance between the NSNG (No Sugars/No Grains) lifestyle, the Paleo (Paleolithic) lifestyle, and the Keto (Ketogenic) lifestyle. All of these dietary lifestyles involve whole food and clean eating. Now, to be honest, you should also be considering proper vitamin and supplementation these days only due to the fact that years of commercial farming has generated food supplies that our nutrient deficient. That said, yes there’s an additional component involving naturally sourced vitamins and nutritional shake systems to gain more nutrient dense solutions.

DIET, this word has become a negative connotation since it doesn’t symbolize a healthy, long-term way of living. This is a four-letter word that should be used moving forward in successful health and wellness practices. Diet symbolizes a short-term mindset whereas Lifestyle promotes the longevity. We need to be implementing “Lifestyle” changes and enhancements that can be maintained over the long haul. Crash dieting doesn’t create positive change, and the results are always temporary due to the negative impacts to our hormonal alignment. We must start with small changes to see how you adapt and can ensure a maintenance mindset. Celebrate the little wins along the way.

Intermittent fasting is another successful component of the ketogenic lifestyle to help your body reach a healthy state of ketosis. Incorporate fasting and cleansing are other historically proven lifestyle enhancements. These practices existed in over many years and are represented differently in multiple cultures around the world. I personally found these practices beneficial after firefighting to restore my adrenal fatigue.

But I’m Super Busy, and I don’t have the time… Consider meal prepping your clean eating, whole food solutions. Do a “Grill-Up Sunday” where you prep extra proteins on the grill or baked in the oven. Pull out a big pot and steam a large quantity broccoli or your rich green veggies. Those foods can then be easily stored in ready to travel Tupperware or travel-friendly meal planning bags.

Rethinking the Fast-food Choices… If you’re on the road and thinking about those fast-food conveniences, start rethinking what those food choices will be. Go for the grilled chicken salad with dressing on the side vs. the fast-food burger, fries, and a sugar bomb shake. We all know the struggle, and we all truly have a choice.

Your body and mind need time to adapt, recalibrate, and adjust as your lifestyle choices improve. We need to channel that energy and drive into caring about our overall mental health, fitness, nutrition, and especially along with our proper rest and recovery.

Disclaimer… The information provided above is my own research, opinions, and experiences so LIVETHEFUEL cannot be held liable. Please always consult a professional doctor, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.

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Meet Creatively

We’ve all done it. Every company tries to create a new, inviting and exciting environment in the same old conference room. If we’re being honest with ourselves, innovation and passion for the task at hand can be severely diminished in a four-walled room that very rarely has windows. Experts agree that meetings or conferences should […]

We’ve all done it. Every company tries to create a new, inviting and exciting environment in the same old conference room. If we’re being honest with ourselves, innovation and passion for the task at hand can be severely diminished in a four-walled room that very rarely has windows.

Experts agree that meetings or conferences should have a specific agenda, end time and a break every 30 minutes. But what are you doing to ensure the quality of work produced by your team is excellent? Here in the Lehigh Valley there are a few venues to choose from that can easily give your organization a change of pace for a meeting but “none quite like Bell Gate Farm” says owner Stephanie Stevens.

The Environmental Challenge:

Leadstrat.com is a wonderful resource for when meetings become mundane and unproductive. They supply articles, lists of ideas and even facilitators when necessary. Specific ideas for “spicing up your space” include: removing the table from the meeting room, having couches and comfortable chairs on hand, playing Mozart in the background and even meeting outside. These suggestions present their own challenges, how many companies other than Google have extra living room furniture on hand? Hotel ballrooms are a popular alternative for corporate meetings, but the price companies pay for the convenience of having accommodations on site, and the reality that you’re still in that “same old format” takes away from the objective of thinking outside of the box to engage leadership and creativity from your group.

The Issue of Space:

Take a moment and compare your client facing spaces to your internal spaces. The difference is almost always the amount of room devoted to windows, art, and open space. Chances are the lobby, and waiting area at your office is more beautiful and inviting than any conference room on site. Employees need both emotional and physical space in order to be effective and engaged. The Harvard Business Review states: “The open office has a lot of critics these days. But it remains the dominant form of workplace design for a reason: It can foster collaboration, promote learning, and nurture a strong culture.” Unfortunately, not all industries lend themselves to an open office 100% of the time; financial or legal for example; but there is a solution for when a more open and collaborative space needs to be utilized.

Planning and Timing:

How many times has a meeting been called inconveniently at 4:30 PM on a Friday with no set end time? How productive have those meeting ever actually been? Timing, planning and meeting space are essential when expecting a positive result from key players in your organization. Plan a meeting midweek and serve breakfast or lunch to break up the week and encourage a positive attitude towards the tasks at hand. “Midweek specials” scheduled offsite are especially effective as it encourages the group to create something together to foster familiarity. Michael Wilkinson, Managing Director at Leadership Strategies states “If they create it, they understand it, they accept it, and they own it.” Imagine your group, in a new setting at a strategically timed meeting solving issues for your company in a productive and positive manner. How do you find such a space?

The Solution:

Hotel conference rooms or restaurant private rooms are not a solution that will solve the issue of bland or mundane meeting spaces for your team. Bell Gate Farm, located at 7081 Bell Gate Road in Coopersburg Pennsylvania has both indoor and outdoor spaces to choose from that will easily supply a healthy change of environment. 233 acres of land and amazing views provides the literal and emotional space needed for a productive meeting.

Stephanie Stevens put a lot of thought and energy into each choice she made for her state of the art venue. She ensured that the spaces could be used for more formal events such as weddings or fundraisers but also created an intimate touch that lends the environment to more collaborative and creative corporate meetings. Her personal originality and ingenuity are adamantly represented in each piece of comfortable furniture available in the space, and she even foresaw the needs of a traditional corporate meeting space such as televisions for presentations or the ability to speak to a large group with individually controlled speakers and microphone access.

“I really hope this article inspires people to mix it up a little when it comes to their next important meeting” – Stevens

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Dining out in Italy

Many anniversaries are celebrated over a great meal in a special restaurant. With direct flights from Philadelphia and Newark, it is so easy to spend a long weekend in Rome, Milan or Venice.  The recent addition to high-speed trains allows for quick access to other cities. In honor of Network Magazine’s second anniversary, we are […]

Many anniversaries are celebrated over a great meal in a special restaurant. With direct flights from Philadelphia and Newark, it is so easy to spend a long weekend in Rome, Milan or Venice.  The recent addition to high-speed trains allows for quick access to other cities.

In honor of Network Magazine’s second anniversary, we are celebrating by listing our favorite restaurants in Italy that are perfect for any type of celebration.   Whether you are planning a short trip or a longer vacation to Italy there are some important things to know about dining in Italy that is different from here in the states.

Up until a few years ago, restaurant etiquette included ordering multiple courses that included an antipasto, primo (pasta or soup), secondo (meat or fish), cortono (vegetable side) followed by a salad and dessert.  Coffee is served after dessert, not with it.  Dinner is an event, intentionally taking a few hours to complete.  Italians feel that the meal is to be an experience and to spend valuable time with their family or friends.  While the courses are small, it still can be too much for most visitors, and even the younger generation of Italians is making a shift from the traditional style of dining.

You will no longer see a raised eyebrow from your waiter if you don’t follow these old-world traditions, but the crucial rule of restaurant dining is that you should order at least two courses.  That waiter will still expect to order a primo and a secondo or an antipasto followed by a primo or secondo, or a secondo with dessert. Traditionally, a secondo is not a “main course” that would serve as a full meal. It’s a common mistake for tourists to order only a secondo, thinking they’re getting a “main course” complete with side dishes. What they wind up with is one lonely piece of meat.

Gone too are the days when a type of restaurant told you what type of menu it offered. An Osteria used to be a very casual place, similar to a British tavern. It was a place where you could get a quick, inexpensive meal from a limited menu with the option of renting a small room for the night, where the children hung out after school and departed when the men came in after work.    A Trattoria meant you were in a family run eatery, the mother usually was cooking, and the family members served your food.

The simple hearty food was available served on wooden tables without tablecloths. The Ristorante was reserved for special occasions; jacketed waiters served meals from a professional chef in the kitchen offering an extensive menu and table-side cooking.   Now the lines are blurred and include Pizzeria, Enoteca, Baccaro, Café, Pasticceria and Tavola Calda, so it’s important to look at the menu posted outside the entrance.

Eateries are quite used to diners who order courses to split; but, if you’re not so hungry, you might head for a pizzeria or baccaro to sample some quick bites.  There are no ‘doggy bags’ in Italian restaurants.  Italians don’t like leftovers, preferring to cook each meal from scratch.  Only in the past few years have Italians started taking out food from restaurants, pizzerias or grocery stores, but the doggy bag is still a difficult idea for them to grasp.

The most frequent question we get from our villa renters is on tipping.  There are still differences of opinions throughout the travel community, but we asked our people on the ground that included our Italian relatives, owners of villas, tour guides, drivers and restaurant owners and they all came up with the same response:  Italians expect a tip from Americans because it has always been our custom to tip, it has become the barometer of their quality of service. They don’t expect it from Italians or other Nationalities. We tell our guests it is not mandatory, but if you feel you must tip, no more than 10% of the bill.   Before you do tip, check the bottom of your menu for the words servizio incluso that means the service tip is included, and you can then leave a little loose change as an expression of gratitude. Note that it servizio incluso most likely not be on the bill, so you must look for it on the menu.

TIPS = To Insure Proper Service started in 17th-century Taverns of Britain and was embraced by Americans shortly after with much resistance.
Waiter!  The check, please!  It is considered rude for a waiter to give you a check without asking for it.  Many Americans will become frustrated by not getting the check, ruining a perfectly wonderful meal and blaming it on the waiter.  Most restaurants seat only once, your table is yours for the night.

Italians consider it rude to chase you out of their establishment by presenting a check.  When you are ready for your check, just ask the waiter, Il Conto, per favore.  (ill CONto Pear FA vor eh).

If you find you can’t honor reservations, please call so they can offer it to another guest.  Their livelihood depends on it.

The following restaurants range from small family run inexpensive places to elegant 5-star dining, all suitable for celebrating a special occasion.

ROME
Il Bacaro – this is one of Rome’s most romantic restaurants, small and cozy located on a little alleyway.  A creative menu will make it one of your not to be missed places. On a beautiful summer night, opt for the vine covered terrace, candle lit in and out.  Via degli Spagnoli, 27 +39 06 687 2554
La Pergola – the best restaurant in Rome, by the famous German chef Heinz Beck. Elegant and extraordinary it is located in the Cavalieri hotel offering the most incredible view of the city.

Antico Arco offers the best dishes from around the 20 regions of Italy with a contemporary flair. They have an extensive wine list and always changing by the restaurant’s own sommelier.  Piazzale Aurelio 7, this restaurant is in the quiet residential area called Gianocola.    Reservations a must +39 06 581 5274

Baby –   the ‘offspring’ of the famous Amalfi coast Dal Alfonso 1890 holds up to the expectations of this world-renowned restaurant as well as the steep prices.  Chef/owner Alfonso and his son Ernesto comes up from the Amalfi coast at least one day a week to plan menus and overseeing the restaurant.    Vial Uiisee Aldrovandi, 15

FLORENCE
Trattoria Sostanza – One of Florence’s best, this trattoria has been around since 1869 before Italy was unified.  You will be sitting among Florentines any day of the week.  They serve the perfect Bistecca Fiorentina the right way. Or try the chicken with butter and the artichoke tart.  Via del Porcellana, 25 +39 055 212691

Ristorante Cibréo and Trattoria Cibréo – choose from the elegant and more expensive ristorante or the casual trattoria.  The food comes out of the trattoria’s kitchen and walked over to the ristorante. The difference is the menu at the trattoria is smaller and less expensive.  One of Italy’s best restaurants.  Ristorante via dei Macci 118r, Trattoria Via de Macci 112r +39 055 234 1100

Enotecca Pinchiorri has the highest Michelin star rating, and is fit for a king down to the Renaissance palace dining room. They offer the best of Florence, Tuscan and Italian cuisine and the largest wine list in Italy.  Via Ghibellina 87,   +39 055 242 777

VENICE
Ristorante Quadri – two stories above the famous coffee house on the Piazza San Marco, book far in advance to reserve one of the couple of tables that look down over what Napoleon called Europe’s living room. The owner of the famed Le Calandre restaurant is in charge of the kitchen, serving food that has a complexity not normally associated with the simplicity of Italian cuisine.  For more traditional Venetian cuisine and lower prices, the abcQuadri on the ground floor is also a special treat. No matter you dine at one of their restaurants, make sure you end your first night at the café tables outside with a nightcap while you listen to the orchestra.   Piazza san Marco 121

Osteria Boccadoro – in a quiet neighborhood with little foot traffic you will find this charming, elegant restaurant right on the edge of a campo (piazza in Venetian).  Request an outside table in the warmer months for a beautiful and romantic setting. Campo Widman, Cannaregio district +39 041 521 1021

Trattoria alla Rivetta –  For years it was the lunch spot for neighboring merchants and gondoliers before reaching all the guide books.  For an exceptional experience call Patrice at Papavero Villa Rentals for the name of her favorite waiter who will make you feel like a native.  Salizada San Provol, +39 041 528 7302

MODENA
In 2016 Osteria Francescana was named the number one restaurant in the world.   In 2017 it came in second but still holds the number one position as the best restaurant in Europe.   This Michelin three-star osteria is in the culinary capital of Italy, the Emilia Romagna region, known for Bolognese sauce (just call it ragu in Bologna), Prosciutto, parmagiano cheese, and the true balsamic vinegar.  The Getting a table here is harder than getting tickets to Hamilton, the reservation book opens three months out and you can reserve on line.  Via Stella, 22 Modena

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The Magic of Wine

Drinking Time and Space Did you ever stop to think that when you are drinking a glass of wine, you are actually drinking the elements of time and space and eons of geological evolution? In a sense, wine grapes are tiny, juicy, complex time capsules that have captured the energy of the sun, gained sustenance […]

Drinking Time and Space

Did you ever stop to think that when you are drinking a glass of wine, you are actually drinking the elements of time and space and eons of geological evolution? In a sense, wine grapes are tiny, juicy, complex time capsules that have captured the energy of the sun, gained sustenance from the soils and weather conditions during their months-long ripening process and delivered all of this through the magic of fermentation to the glass in front of you.

Winemaking is first and foremost farming, and like many other crops, grapes are sensitive to the conditions where they are grown. Bananas like the tropics, apples prefer cooler climes, and various grape varieties are no different – Riesling prefers mildly cooler zones, whereas Bordeaux varieties thrive in warmer conditions.

But on a much finer scale than most crops, grapes can absorb detailed nuances in the geological and climate conditions where they are ripened. And unlike many crops that are quickly consumed after harvest, wine grapes are given a second life through the process of fermentation that preserves them, capturing their expression of the time and place where they were grown, sometimes for decades.

This character can easily be dissipated – too much oak and the wine tastes like oak. Poor soils and overcropping result in mediocre wine. Blend and manipulate the wine and the sense of place disappears in a sea of winemaking techniques and processing. But quality-oriented practices such as restricting yields, hand harvesting, minimal intervention and processing in the winery, all enhance a wine’s ability to preserve and express the elements of where it was grown.

Perhaps nowhere else is the essence of terroir so closely regulated and obsessed over than in the vineyards of Burgundy’s Cote D’Or. Over millions of years, geological evolution has created the fault lines, erosion and complex shifts in the ground underfoot that make each vineyard unique. Over hundreds of years, the vineyards that adorn these precious slopes have been farmed and observed, with every subtle nuance noted.

Each vineyard is delimited, named and ranked from basic Bourgogne Rouge and Blanc, through Village level, and up to the revered Premier and Grand Crus. Tiny differences in the mix of limestone and marls, or the position on the gentle slopes, can mean the difference in quality that is reflected in prices that can be hundreds of dollars per bottle different – even for wines made from grapes grown just a few meters apart in some cases. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown here are the conduits through which the elements of these fabled terroirs are conveyed. In Burgundy and many other regions, “place” is the key to a wine’s quality.

If the bones of a wine’s character are determined in the vineyard, it is during the growing season that its final expression is set. There are numerous conditions and risks that grape growers have to confront, many of which can influence the final wine. A quick look at the growing season gives some insight as to what farmers have to contend with to create a perfect bottle of wine.

The best years are those suited to grapes’ goldilocks personality – they like things juuust right. A dream vintage has a perfect balance of minimal but well-timed rainfall, warm, sunny days that are not too hot, and cool nights. These are conditions that set the stage for a slow rise of sugars, allowing time for the grape’s flavors to develop while acidity stays fresh and all of the grape’s components come together in perfect harmony.

In more challenging years, cool conditions may result in wines with higher acidity, more structure or greenish tannins, and less concentration and flavor and a shrillness. Hot years can show the heat with pruney, overripe notes, lower acidity and higher alcohol or wines that can be somewhat flabby. In these years, growers and winemakers have to adapt their vineyard management and winemaking practices to minimize the effects of the weather to produce the best wines they can. But the signature of the vineyard and vintage often remain an indelible component of the wines’ story.

In the end, the wine in your glass is the culmination of all of the influences of the vineyard where it was grown, the specific conditions during the season, and the winemakers’ touch, with each year unique in terms of its style. So the next time you enjoy a glass of wine remember – you are drinking in a time and place, and experiencing a unique liquid expression of a year’s worth of sun, earth, and hard work, all captured in a grape. Cheers!

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Cigar Reviews Summer 2017

5 Vegas Gold Toro Honduras 6.0”x50 Mild 92-Rated Silky at first glance, this golden Toro has a pleasant, barnyard pre-light aroma and feels solid. The Ecuador Connecticut wrapper is gorgeous, and graces a well-aged blend of Honduran and Nicaraguan long-leaf tobaccos. The smoke is creamy. Almost buttery. Spice greets my palate upfront, eventually giving way […]

5 Vegas Gold Toro

Honduras 6.0”x50 Mild
92-Rated

Silky at first glance, this golden Toro has a pleasant, barnyard pre-light aroma and feels solid. The Ecuador Connecticut wrapper is gorgeous, and graces a well-aged blend of Honduran and Nicaraguan long-leaf tobaccos. The smoke is creamy. Almost buttery. Spice greets my palate upfront, eventually giving way to ample hints of peanut and cashew. There’s even a slight sweetness mixed in, which lasts until the spice returns for a finale. Mild, yet incredibly eventful, this is a daily burner for sure.

Diesel Rage Torpedo

Nicaragua                            5.0” x 56               Medium-Full
93-Rated

Earth. Vanilla. Coffee. Sweet cedar. Spice. I’ve burned a ton of Diesel Rage(s??) and the 56-ring Torpedo showcases these flavors in grand fashion. Ecuador Habano Sun Grown wrappers extra-fermented to an Oscuro state hug a ligero-laced recipe of Nicaraguan long-fillers spawned by Cuban seeds. The result: a luxurious marriage of strength, complexity, and balance that grows more intense throughout the burn but never overwhelms. Tons of big boy flavor delivered in smooth fashion, that’s Rage.

Mi Querida SakaKhan

Nicaragua                            7.0” x 50               Medium-Full
92-Rated

All Nicaraguan long-fillers mingle inside a dark and toothy Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. All are aged extensively and blended to perfection, creating Mi Querida. This Churchill-sized vitola unleashes a wealth of chocolate and sweet Maduro undertones from the get-go, opening up midway through to unveil espresso, oak, earth, and a dash of pepper. It’s tasty, and jam-packed with tobacco to burn super slow. Consider Mi Querida your sleeper pick that covers the spread, and then some.

Padron 1964 Anniversary Series Imperial Maduro

Nicaragua                            6.0” x 54               Medium-Full
95-Rated

Since grandma was a girl, this gem has been a darling among cigar enthusiasts. I decided to burn the Imperial Maduro to tell you why. This dark, 54-ring cigar is dense, solid from head to toe, and feels heavy in the hand. Upon lighting, a rich, lush bouquet smacks my palate and coats each taste bud with heavy, creamy smoke. After a few minutes, the richness gives way to a deep core of coffee, cocoa, earth. A unique nuttiness lingers on the finish, and is complemented by hints of spice and toast. No twists or turns throughout the burn, just a complex, superior handmade worthy of celebration.

Partagas Black Label Clasico

Dominican Republic        5.25” x 54             Full
93-Rated

This beast is dark and oily to the touch. Once burning, thick clouds of gray smoke fill my office. Aromatic clouds, smelling of charcoal and earth. Love that. The flavor is big and chewy, dishing out robust notes of earth met by a delicious touch of leather just before the exhale. Retrohale (exhale through the nose) to appreciate the true full-flavored nature of Partagas Black – you’ll discover layers of subtle nuances, including coffee bean and black pepper. Expect a slow, satisfying burn from this cigar.

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Plan Your Winter Vacation Now

The Arrabelle dubbed the “Holy Vail of Luxury Ski Resorts” If skiing in the Alps has always been on the top of your to-do list, but the inflated Euro, increased travel warnings in Europe and those long flights to Austria have made travel there less than appealing; simply pack your suitcases and head to Vail.  […]

The Arrabelle dubbed the “Holy Vail of Luxury Ski Resorts”

If skiing in the Alps has always been on the top of your to-do list, but the inflated Euro, increased travel warnings in Europe and those long flights to Austria have made travel there less than appealing; simply pack your suitcases and head to Vail.  Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Vail, Colorado, is home to the 2nd largest single ski mountain in North America and a winter wonderland of lavish chalets and world class resorts.

Vail is easily accessed by Eagle airport and the 30-minute shuttle takes you directly into Vail city center.  Like a postcard from Switzerland, Vail is reminiscent of a small European ski village.  Resorts line the narrow streets that blend with the design and feel of Vail’s original Alpine developers and every 15 minutes free buses loop the town dropping off skiers, shoppers, or diners throughout the quaint village.  I was amazed at the mounds of 10 feet of snow found at the ends of the streets, but not a single speck of snow or ice could be found on the sidewalk.  I soon learned that the sidewalks are heated, and protected speakers that project sounds of trendy music are discreetly tucked in among the scenery.  This is the great OZ of upscale ski towns and home to a new resort that puts skiers “wants” first.

In the heart of Vail Square, at the base of the Eagle Bahn Gondola, is the less than 2-year-old Arrabelle Resort. Vail square’s prime location that contains upscale boutiques, an ice rink, and fire pit makes the Arrabelle the crowning attraction.  This seven-story boutique hotel is the crème de la crème of a ski in/ski out lodges.  The Arrabelle’s team of designers extensively traveled to the heart of Europe’s famous alpine locations in order to recreate the feel of an authentic and iconic Alpine resort.

Throughout the resort, fireplaces crackle and windows are perfectly positioned so that when you sit fireside, the views of the slopes are spectacular.  This lavish resort features 62 elegant rooms/suites that average 550 square feet.  Every room contains a classic canopy bed with rich red hues and a fireplace.  High-end flat screen TV‘s, DVD players, BoseTM MP3/CD alarm clock radios, complimentary high-speed wireless Internet access,  in-room safe and humidifier are standard in every room.

The large stylish marble bathrooms include a shower and separate tub, double sinks, another TV, plush bathrobes and over the top heated floors.

Every guest is served by a butler and customer service standards here rise to incredible levels.  Slope side ski and boot valets epitomize the 5-star experience created to exceed the standard “ski” resort inclusions.

Endless amenities for Arrabelle’s guests include access to their stunning heated rooftop pool and hot tubs which not only provide exclusive privacy but also offer sweeping views of the mountains. The Arrabelle’s Spa and fitness center is an astounding 9,000 square foot facility that features six massage rooms, two facial rooms, a Vichy Shower/Swiss Shower room and a couple’s therapy room. At the end of a long ski day, the spa offers treatments that focus on feet, ankles and sore leg muscles. It’s no wonder that the Arrabelle’s story like picture perfect location and luxurious amenities have an Olympic downhill gold medalist, Lindsey Vonn, calling it her home.

However, if by chance you are not staying at the Arrabelle while you are in Vail, you can still get a sampling of the vintage yet totally chic vibe at one of their two highly rated restaurants. Centre V and Tavern on the Square beckons visitors of Vail Square with its inviting atmosphere and upscale ambiance. The European influenced Centre V is a romantic spot with candlelit tables and French cuisine.   Tavern on the Square is a pub where guests can cozy up and enjoy après-ski.

The Arrabelle’s European flair and prime location combined with over the top amenities only add more glamour to the Austrian-like village that has brought ski lovers, celeb’s and families to Vail for years.

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You Can Get There From Here

Vacation air travel can be a huge hassle. When looking to fly to your vacation destination, though you prefer to fly out of Lehigh Valley International, that usually means a connecting flight to Philly or Newark.  In order to get a non-stop flight, you have to drive an hour and a half. Using general aviation, […]

Vacation air travel can be a huge hassle. When looking to fly to your vacation destination, though you prefer to fly out of Lehigh Valley International, that usually means a connecting flight to Philly or Newark.  In order to get a non-stop flight, you have to drive an hour and a half. Using general aviation, you have access to thousands of nonstop destinations not easily reached by the airlines.  While many airlines offer direct flights to vacation hot spots, there are more than a few locations where they can’t go non-stop. Take Key West for example. Many airlines provide flights in and out of the island; however, none are non-stop from our area. This is due to the shorter runway in Key West. Larger commercial aircraft cannot safely take off and land. Most carriers will have a connecting flight near the Miami area, where you will be required to board a smaller aircraft or finish with a long drive.  General aviation aircraft are able to fly into Key West direct from anywhere in the Northeast.  Another great vacation spot is St. Simons Island in Georgia.  SSI is a prime location next to several resorts and golf courses.

While there is an airport on the island, no airline offers commercial flights to this location. Once again, this is due to a short runway.  Airlines will fly into Brunswick airport, just north of the island, requiring another drive to get to your ultimate destination.

Often with air travel, you will find delays at major airports. Whether it is a departure or an arrival delay, it can cost you valuable time. Luckily, there are many smaller airports around major cities that make traveling easier through private aviation. Unlike the airlines, which are restricted to a set schedule and routing, a private aircraft is able to skirt around delays by choosing an alternate airport that is less congested.  From there, operators are able to help arrange ground transportation to take you to your final destination, often getting you there before the airline has even taken off.

If you have ever thought of taking a destination vacation out of the country, you may know how difficult it can be to ensure you have the proper paperwork (don’t forget your passport or visa!) and find flights that work around your travel dates. Private aviation is here to make international trip planning a breeze. One of the more increasingly popular destinations is Cuba. Since the travel restrictions to Cuba have been eased, many have engaged in the idea of “stepping back in time” and visiting the quaint island. Being that the travel restrictions have just recently been lifted, it may be confusing as to what information you need to provide before your trip. While general “tourism” is still not allowed, there are certain categories of travel that may apply to you such as “people to people,” where you will be interacting with locals and learning about their culture. Let general aviation operators help you through the process of confirming which category you could fall under. Most operators have contacts in Cuba to even help plan your day to day itinerary and make the most of your visit.

There is no need to worry about visas and other requirements. Provide the flight operator with your passport information and everything else is handled for you. Upon landing in Cuba, you will find all customs and immigration paperwork has been filed accordingly, and you can be on your way to an exciting adventure. The same applies to your return flight back to the States.  A U.S. Customs agent will meet you plane-side and clear you on location. No more waiting in long lines to be seen by the next available agent. You can be on your way home from a relaxing vacation less than ten minutes after landing.

Whether you are looking for the most direct flight or are planning an international trip, call your local general aviation operator, LR Services, and explore a new kind of travel that is easier, faster and smarter!

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